DOE, EPA wait for Trump’s team

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Energy and environmental agencies are gearing up for a massive power shift between the Obama and Trump administrations.

In an email sent to U.S. EPA staff Thursday and obtained by E&E News, Chief of Staff Matt Fritz said EPA has been preparing for months to ensure a “smooth, seamless and efficient” transition as it gets ready for the imminent arrival of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

“We expect members of President-elect Trump’s EPA Landing Team will arrive soon to begin preparing for the new administration,” Fritz wrote. “From now until the inauguration, the EPA Landing Team will be reviewing briefing materials and meeting with EPA senior officials to better understand the agency and its pressing issues.”

Fritz said an MOU, or a memorandum of understanding, has been signed that governs access to employees and facilities with Trump’s team. Under the agreement’s terms, any requests for information from Trump’s transition team should be directed to Shannon Kenny, EPA’s principal deputy associate administrator for the Office of Policy and its designated transition director.

“Finally, as we go through this transition, it is important that we continue to work together and support one another,” Fritz said.

“Thank you to the many people across the agency who have helped prepare for the transition,” he said. “Because of your efforts, we are well-positioned to meet the President’s charge so the new administration is ready to govern on day one.”

But it appears the transition effort for Trump has yet to take off, at least within the agencies themselves.

When asked whether Trump’s transition team had arrived at EPA, an agency spokeswoman referred questions to Trump’s transition team and shared with E&E News an article in The New York Times that describes the transition process as “frozen.”

The article notes that Vice President-elect Mike Pence has yet to sign the transition MOU with the Obama administration, stalling the process. Pence is the new leader of Trump’s transition team after replacing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) last week. Christie had completed the necessary paperwork on Election Day to begin the transition, while Pence has not.

“We look forward to completing that work so that we can provide the necessary access to personnel and resources to get the president-elect’s team up to speed and deliver on President Obama’s directive for a smooth transition,” Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman, told the Times.

Trump’s transition team did not respond to messages asking for comment for this story.

Other agencies are also waiting to help with the transition. When asked whether Trump’s transition team had arrived at the Energy Department, a DOE spokeswoman also directed E&E News to the Times article, saying it “seems to detail the current situation.”

A source involved in the transition effort said team members haven’t yet arrived at DOE, and timing for when that would occur is unclear.

Last week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sent an agencywide email obtained by E&E News, in which he thanked staffers for their hard work and outlined the transition process.

“Every four years, the American people elect a President in keeping with our democratic traditions,” Moniz wrote. “We are now embarked on a 72 day transition period, during which time we have the dual responsibilities of continuing our work on President Obama’s priorities and of professionally preparing the way for a smooth start by the fourteenth Secretary of Energy and his or her team.”

Moniz also doubled down on the importance of the coming weeks before a Trump administration takes over to advance clean energy and protect the environment.

“Every day counts for advancing our clean energy, science, nuclear security, and environmental missions, and I anticipate that we will accomplish much over the next ten weeks,” Moniz wrote, “just as your excellent work has done over the last years and as the Department’s new leadership will appreciate in the years ahead.”

Trump transition officials are now expected to land in domestically focused federal agencies — like EPA, the Interior Department and DOE — next week, according to a source familiar with the transition process.

Transition staff can’t enter government agencies until they secure the proper clearance, a process that is ongoing. Those lists are expected to be made public before the teams enter agencies to begin interviewing government officials.

Reporter Robin Bravender contributed.